i remember i was in washington state filming not a week ago when i first heard that israel had started shelling lebanon.* the news was like a stone sliding into absolutely still water, with a soft plunk. quiet, you think, but still a violent enough disturbance to make the paramecium dance furiously below surface. quiet enough to make you shudder.
maybe that’s why people persist in having children in our miserable age: because we need the hope. once i heard kazuo ishiguro speak about the writing of his book WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS, about the japanese occupation of shanghai from a confused young japanese boy’s point of view (he later becomes a detective who returns to shanghai and tries to piece his childhood together), and he said something then which seemed cryptic to me but has since gained clarity:
ishiguro said, “i wanted to re-create the zone of safety, of innocence that adults feel compelled to make in order to cocoon a child from the world.”
at the time i understood it as meeting the child’s need. but now i see so clearly that it’s equally if not more about meeting the adult’s aching need–for innocence.
it’s hard to raise children when a deep, small part of you is convinced we’re really in the shit now.
*anthony bourdain continues to amaze and surprise me. his dispatch from beirut made me very very sad.
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bedtime rituals in our house are lengthy. what a luxury it is that CN often takes 2 hours or more to unwind. i hope all these nights of slow unraveling of wakedness into sleep is something he can store in a bottle for later, when inevitable uneasy or short nights come.
after bath, little massage of skin lotion and pulling on of jammies, teeth brushing, and an acrobatic tumble into bed, we read.
i should say, i read. i’m like sheherazhade, commanded to read nearly a thousand and one stories for what seems like nearly as many nights (and more, i hope). luckily i serve a benevolent dictator.
recently i’ve been reading to him out of Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen. we skip around a lot. i think he chooses the poems as much based on the pictures that accompany them as the way the poem sounds when i read it.
anyway, he commits them all to memory scarily fast and easy. (i should back up a bit and say i wasn’t pleased he was beginning to memorize and ask questions about traditional nursery rhymes–about boys who throw kittens down the well, bubonic plague-ridden people and the efforts to stay plague-free, and other medieval monstrosities turned into folk rhymes for tots. so i thought contemporary poems would be more reasonable in sensibility and subject matter.) when i was only halfway through reading his favorite, “Rabbit,” he quickly repeated the rest of the poem from memory and exclaimed, “i read it!”
well, who was i to argue against his majesty? close enough.
at any rate, as we finished the book (all toddler books end with someone falling asleep, dontcha know) and snuggled down together, he said a great many things.
“will you buy something for me?”
“yes, what is it?”
“will you buy me some ‘quash? not yucky ‘quash but yummy ‘quash?” [squash--he drops the beginning esses of words]
“okay. what else?”
“and some corn?”
“oh, because you like corn on the cob.”
“yes. and a yummy lamby that i can eat and grow taller?”
“a white chocolate lamby?” [that he nursed from easter til about june, gobbling ears--limbs--tail--back of the head, when i secretly threw it away believing the hollowed out shell, a face attached to a torso, to be more bacteria than candy and ready to collapse a la House of Wax style]
“yes. it will help me grow tall, just like daddy. so i can reach up…”
“reach up in the kitchen?”
“yes, and get things down. a lamby will help me grow tall.”
“okay honeypie. i can’t promise it’ll be in the shape of a lamby, but tomorrow when mama’s at the store, i’ll buy you a treat. okay?”
his eyes are almost closed. he burrows into my side and puts his hand on my stomach.
just when i think he’s asleep, he says in the deliberative way toddlers speak, as if they’re testing with a wedge and hammer the fit of each word into the sentence:
“when i grow up, i’m going to buy you some earrings.”
“oh, thank you, my dearest! how sweet of you to think of your mama like that. now go to sleep.”